So, let's start with my all-time favorites and call it the "they can do no wrong category."
U2, Interpol, Erasure, Broken Bells, Kylie, Dolly, Shakira, Suzanne Vega, RuPaul, Jack White, Stars, Julian Casablancas and Thom Yorke released albums in 2014. Each one is as good as any of their previous work. Their only undoing is that their talent probably can't be exceeded, so how could they possibly blow me away? (U2 - If you are reading this, you'll need another "Zooropa" to blow me away.) I'm always amazed that these greats can be so consistently good. Certain songs will forever be in my artist playlist (ie. "Iris", "I Was Gonna Cancel", "Don't Uncork What You Can't Contain", "Sissy That Walk", "Lazaretto", "From the Night", "No One Is Lost", and "Human Sadness"). And, just how does that Thom take all those discordant sounds and somehow reconcile them to something beautiful and harmonic? However, I can't be bothered with full reviews.
A few of the old-timers actually do deserve a bit more explanation.
Symphonica, George Michael - He sounds amazing. The covers are spot on, particularly "Idol" and "Going to a Town".
I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss, Sinead O'Connor - "TAKE ME TO CHURCH", I rest my case!
Natalie Merchant, Natalie Merchant - She waited long enough to give us a "real" album, but it is beautifully worth it. I actually care about each character's story and am dying to know more about each of them. (In the case of Lulu, one can actually learn more about her.)
Stockholm, Chrissie Hynde - Still rocking it with attitude. If you like the Pretenders (and who doesn't), you'll love every song. She may be in her 60s, but she is still a rock god. Look at her!
Four of you roared back into my iPod and can compete with all of the upstarts.
World Peace is None of Your Business, Morrissey - There is a reason that I am betrothed to the great Moz. Every single syllable he utters is more important to me than anything else ever muttered. (Perhaps, I go on too much.) Point is, he still creates clever pop songs that are better than everyone else. Why write a blatant song about the good ones dying young when you can just personalize it to Neal Cassady and demonstrate how ridiculous an old beatnik is?
Unrepentant Geraldines, Tori Amos - What is a middle-aged woman to do? For starters, write songs that perfectly match one's life. Tori stays engaged in the world around her, yet simplifies it at the same time. She is mother, revolutionary, seductress, mystic rolled into one. Most of all, she understands what her fans crave.
La Petite Mort, James - This album came out of the blue. I am a member of their fan club and missed the release by a month. Song after song, they visit what is expected. Yet, the magic is in the pure delivery of those themes now that they have aged. The 3 song start is as good as any in the career.
Blank Project, Neneh Cherry - Huh? What? The girl who gave us intelligent hip-hop returns with a jazzy, hot, sweaty, understated, cocky masterpiece. The overall album is stripped down, yet it is full of trippy beats and melodic dreamscapes. She has her niche, and nothing else relates.
This brings us to the techno point of our show...All five of the albums listed below are unbelievably good. They cover the gamut from old school DJ to modern distortion.
Syro, Aphex Twin
One Love, Caribou
The Inevitable End. Royksopp
Phantogram wins, because Voices transcends the genre and is the 3rd best album of 2014.
Let's see, there is La Roux. Trouble In Paradise is perfect pop music. It is that album that you can play in any audience, and everyone loves it. Lana Del Rey's Ultraviolence keeps growing on me. I'm drawn to it like a burnt out moth to a hellish flame. I'm not sure I want to like it, but I do.
My new find of the year is Working Out by Arthur Beatrice. They have created an album that doesn't fit into a category. It is modern, yet it harkens to a simpler form of music. Sample "Grand Union"
Alt-J continue to impress with This is All Yours. I'm not sure what to even say about them, because they are so unique. I think the magic is in the album construction as a whole. It is like a moment away from the world we know...one can simply get lost in the mesmerizing soundscapes. I love this homemade video of "The Gospel Of John Hurt".
Well, I guess I have to make a stand and put it out there. Critics pick the top album of the year...it is what we must do.
St. Vincent by St. Vincent is by all accounts (and most other critics) the album that demands to be on top. Annie's talent on the guitar rivals anyone on this list...and quite frankly, even Prince! And, she has something to say. Her songs are diverse, funky, maudlin, and clever. Enjoy this ditty..."Birth in Reverse". Unfortunately in the past year...she is only the 2nd best album.
In 2014, our world was witness to the divine LP1 from FKA Twigs. It is the Best Album of 2014. From the introductory "aah, ahh, aahs", we knew this journey was going to be ecstatic. Then, the electronics lead us with a fury to sex. And, I'm still not sure think of the sex. But, I feel like I had it with her! She can trust me and do it with the "Lights On". But, I'm fully aware she is in control of this trip. I've forgotten all others by the time my lonely thirst is quenched in "Two Weeks". I want to be the one who instigates...higher than a mother fucker. We could do this for "Hours". (And, I need a cigarette!). You "dance feelings like their spoken", and I am mesmerized. Even when a song doesn't fit the cycle ("Video Girl", "Numbers"), it is a lovely break from the intense personal onslaught. Back to the ultimate control of this album, as I too want to be "Closer". Don't question yourself, I am still wanting to go deeper with you. I am hooked watching you get your "Kicks". The repeat button will kick in as soon as it is "clear", and we'll do it all again.